Feedback in the Workplace

Giving and receiving feedback in the workplace is critical to assuring everyone works well together. But, feedback can be a double-edged sword. Given effectively, it builds relationships, increases motivation, corrects or sets realistic expectations between coworkers and clients, and generally makes everything better. Giving ineffectively, it can create stress, lessen enthusiasm, and undermine connections between people. So what is the difference.

The good news is that, generally speaking, people want feedback. Not knowing what others think and what expectations are create stress. Knowing expectations and where others are in their minds can lend to greater peace-of-mind. We’ve all experienced the stress of not knowing, like when you’re meeting a new group of people, and the “aaaahhhhhh” moment when finding out all is well. And research supports the reality that most people do want to know what others are thinking, even if it isn’t great. (See the link at the end of the page.)

Here are some tips and tricks to effective feedback:

Honor intelligence in others – A simple “I’m sure you probably already know this” before bringing up an issue you hope or reasonably can expect someone already knows goes a long way. There are many things that it are good to double-down on when you’re in a teaching moment, assuring they aren’t forgotten, but this can help it stick. Why? Because feeling insulted can make someone stop listening, and makes the conversation a waste of everyone’s energy.

Don’t leave things unsaid – The key to teambuilding is assuring everyone is on the same page. And, we should never assume people know something if we aren’t sure. After all, we aren’t and shouldn’t be expected to be mind readers! All humans are different, so something that “goes without saying” for one, may not be obvious to another. So, if circumstances seem to ask for clarification, give it! The worst thing that can happen is something unneeded is communicated, to which you can reply, “oh good!” But, it can be surprising how often a small statement can make a big impact.

Honor negative feelings – If you have a topic to discuss that is difficult, honor the right of the recipient to be upset. You may have to do it over-and-over. Just because one person in a conversation is “right” doesn’t mean the other person is “wrong” or doesn’t have a right to be upset by a bad situation.

Remember we’re all on the same “side” – Psychologists have noted that it is important during communications, especially when they are stress-filled, that those communicating can see each other as being on the same side. It is critical to emphasize true understanding, empathy, common goals and foundations. As long as both sides continue to see each other as working together, real communication and collaboration can occur.

Don’t beat a dead horse – There are some things best left unsaid. If someone has heard it, knows it, or it has been said recently, give the topic a break. We’re all human and make mistakes, so give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe a mistake is a one-off, so it doesn’t need to be brought up as a failing. Some things can just be fixed and don’t need to be a big learning-moment. If a pattern emerges, then it is time to check-in and find out what’s going on.

Stay curious – Remember, we always have something to learn from others, even when we are “in charge,” the senior, supervisor, or the instructor. When we talk to other people, even when being corrective, we should also be listening. This does two things. One, we are more likely to be heard because we are honoring the value in the people to whom we are talking. Two, we may come away with an even better approach to what we are saying. Maybe the process we are teaching needs to be tweaked. Maybe there is something we didn’t know or are overlooking that changes everything.

Remember that bad may not be so bad – If we can work through the difficult moments to find commonalities, they can make us all stronger. Sometimes the commonality is that two people or organizations really don’t sync because of fundamental differences. It is a good thing that these issues come out so people can progress into more healthy plans with people and organizations that do sync with them! Everyone is better off for working together to see things through – over time – to the best resolution for everyone involved.

Keep communicating – Remember, we are always changing and evolving, so a difference may or may not be resolvable, but we don’t know until it is addressed. We should keep communications lines open, as nothing ever remains static. Watch the people you work with. Listen, and provide feedback. You will grow together as a team and be stronger for it.

In the end, we all benefit from communication, receiving and giving feedback. These moments allow us to learn, grow, and create deeper connection. So, take advantage of the moments you have to check in with the people you work with – both coworkers and clients. Share where you are at in this moment and where you want to go in the future. Find out what’s up with them. It can only improve how you work together in the long run.